“Love has never been expressed towards me from anybody in football,” said Nande Becker by way of introducing himself to the media at a PSL press conference this week.
Despite Becker being the PSL’s prosecutor for the past six years, few know the face behind the name. It is his job to upset some players and make others happy in his oversight role across the 32 premier and second division clubs.
His persona differs from that of his predecessor, the colourful and forthright Zola Majavu.
At Tuesday’s media event, which took place at the PSL’s headquarters in Parktown, Johannesburg, Becker said he was committed to the cause, even though he rarely addressed the press.
Becker was thrust into the spotlight by PSL chairperson Irvin Khoza following the barrage of criticism that has been directed at the league over recent weeks.
The prosecutor took matters in his stride as he took to the podium to quell growing conspiracy theories that the PSL executive was wielding its influence in disciplinary cases instead of letting justice take its course.
The most topical case that has raised concern is the one involving Mamelodi Sundowns defender Wayne Arendse, who was deemed ineligible after he featured in his team’s 1-1 league draw against Bidvest Wits last year. He was initially not drafted in the starting line-up.
It took six months before a guilty verdict was delivered last week. On Friday, the league announced that sentencing had been postponed at the request of Sundowns, who were in Egypt.
A new date is yet to be announced.
PSL prosecutor Nande Becker Picture: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images
The timing of the announcement was questioned, especially as it came a day after Downs coach Pitso Mosimane had complained about the pending matter.
Becker said there was no indication that Sundowns and Wits would be among the top three vying for league honours when the match report came before him in October.
Ironically, Sundowns is Becker’s former club, despite some insinuating that he and the PSL had a vendetta against the club. He served as the club’s legal adviser in the late 1990s, the period in which the Brazilians won three back-to-back league titles between 1997 and 2000.
However, his involvement in local football started way before then, when the club was under the ownership of the Tsichlas family.
Becker, a practising attorney with 36 years of experience, shared his story with City Press: “I first became involved in football through representing a number of [premier and first division] clubs during the 1980s – mainly with civil issues, as clubs were not entitled to legal representation in disciplinary hearings, and the Dispute Resolution Chamber did not exist at the time.
“I also acted for individuals involved in football, such as Cyril Kobus [the former National Soccer League chief executive] and Simon ‘Bull’ Lehoko, while he was still involved with Vaal Professionals.
“I was subsequently approached by Angelo and Natasha Tsichlas to be Sundowns’ legal adviser. I represented the club at disciplinary hearings and, when necessary, in day-to-day issues relating to the running of the club.
I resigned in 2001 as I felt burnt out. I also had two young sons who were active in sport; they were my priority.”
Turning to the present, Becker summed up his six years as PSL prosecutor as “challenging, pressurised and hard work”. Besides his PSL work, he runs his own law firm, specialising in litigation in relation to family law.
“There have been some important changes to [PSL] rules, some of which I initiated to make the system more user-friendly and transparent.
“One of the undoubted successes has been the plea bargain initiative, which has resulted in clubs saving money by not having to pay for disciplinary committee sittings simply to plead guilty. It has also sped up the process of getting matters dealt with.”
The legal eagle spends sleepless nights dealing with football’s disciplinary matters, highlighting the fact that his job “isn’t just simply to get a piece of paper from the PSL laying a charge”.
Although he is often inundated with requests from the press on pending disciplinary matters, Becker is hard to pin down for an interview.
“Rightly or wrongly, I do not consider part of my mandate to liaise or report to the press about matters unless I am specifically requested to do so by the chief executive,” he told the media on Tuesday.
He reflected with pride that he had been unsuccessful only once in all his time with the PSL.
“I charged Wits and one of their officials with misconduct after a match against Kaizer Chiefs. The disciplinary committee found that my witness from Chiefs had not made a favourable impression and acquitted both the club and the official,” he said, without revealing more details.
There is a rumour that Becker could be leaving the PSL. Khoza hinted at this week’s presser that the league might be looking for a full-time prosecutor.
“I do not recall this being discussed. However, as always, I serve the league at the pleasure of the executive committee,” were Becker’s parting words.